Striking a chord

By Christopher Cottrell Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/21 18:13:40

Saxophone legend Kenny G talks about touring China

Kenny G Photo: CFP

Saxophone sensation Kenny G is an ever-evolving artist - one who has captured audiences' imaginations for decades, particularly in China. Indeed, his sonorous works have become the backdrop soundtracks for China's rise over the past two decades - something ethnomusicologists will debate and research for centuries to come.

This past weekend Kenny G jammed across South China's Greater Bay Area in Macao and Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. He was able to spare a moment to give me some pearls of wisdom about his music and what it means to Chinese audiences.

On legendary musician George Benson

KENNY G: George Benson was and still is someone I really look up to. He is one of the greatest living guitar players… jazz guitarists… in the world and being able to be on stage with him as an equal was an amazing experience for me. I sat in on his set and did a duet with him each night and it was electric for me. Unfortunately, George Benson will not be part of my shows here in Macao and Guangzhou this trip.

But we brought the same energy to our shows and played for the audiences here, a mix of old and new songs. And threw in a couple of songs that we only play in China for the Chinese audience.

Fame in China

KENNY G: It always makes me feel great to come to China and hear my songs playing everywhere I go, out in public squares, restaurants, homes, hotels. And even when we board the airplane my music is playing. It brings me a peaceful feeling of connecting to the people of China, because my melodies seem to strike a chord in the heart of the Chinese people and that's wonderful. And in fact, when I hear many Chinese melodies the same chord gets struck in my heart. So I think there's definitely a love affair going on here between me and the people of China.

When we perform in China our audiences are a mix of old and young and very young. We see families coming with generations spanning between them all. And it's wonderful to see. Many very young Chinese kids will line up in front of the stage and sit on the floor and watch our show while the parents and grandparents are back in the seats. It's great to connect with such a wide span of the age group. It makes me proud that my music is so well received with all the generations here in China.

Inspiring Chinese youth

KENNY G: My advice for young Chinese musicians who want to play jazz or saxophone would be to listen to the musicians that you like the most and try to emulate the sound you are hearing. And really it comes down to the hours that one puts into practicing. Anybody can become very good at anything if they practice consistently on this particular skill. Whether it's saxophone, violin, or even managing a restaurant. If you put enough hours into it and do this consistently, this will be a good way to achieve your goals. But with saxophone playing, it's very important to listen to people that you really like and try to emulate what you are hearing.

Respect for roots

KENNY G: Seattle was my home for the first 30 years of my life. And I think that because it rained so much, it probably made it easier for me to stay indoors and practice my saxophone! Plus, Seattle was a very music oriented place in the 1970s with a lot of bands playing around Seattle and I was in one of the funky rhythm and blues bands and enjoyed a lot of live performance experiences which really helped me develop my skills. Every year, I go back to Seattle and perform at the small jazz club there for a week. It always sells out and it's my way of staying in touch with my roots. I get to see my old high school friends, family. And it's a wonderful experience each year.

The writer has been based in China since 2003 and has written for the Global Times, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, CNN, South China Morning Post, among others, covering culture, entertainment, and travel.


blog comments powered by Disqus